MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — When Mountaineer fans hear the name Bill McKenzie, their memories are drawn to an overcast day in 1975. The sophomore kicker from Warwood, West Virginia stepped onto old Mountaineer Field with four seconds left in the game and kicked a 28 yard field goal to beat Pitt. It’s a day which etched McKenzie’s name into Mountaineer lore forever.
But now, when you hear his name, you may also associate it with the crack of a rifle. McKenzie’s name adorns the new Mountaineer Rifle Range in Morgantown.
“He had been a long time MAC donor and was just a proud supporter and follower of the team,” said Coach Jon Hammond.
Hammond and the Athletic Department have been working for years to create a range befitting a 19 time National Championship program. Last weekend the team toed the line of the new Bill McKenzie Rifle Range for the first time.
“Bill’s been a rifle supporter for several years and he’s been very generous,” said Hammond. “I’ve gotten to know him through the MAC and when we were putting this together the MAC approached Bill to see if he would be interested. He took it a step further and made a generous gift large enough for us to put his name on the range.”
McKenzie was more than happy to make the donation, but having his name on the facility was not something which excited him.
“He’s not in it for the publicity,” said Hammond. “I think his family had to twist his arm and convince him his name should be on the facility. It’s been great having his support over the last several years.’
The range is set up within the WVU Shell Building, which for many years has been the home of WVU’s indoor track. It includes 20 firing points for small bore and air rifle competition. It’s spectator friendly with bleacher seating and oversized video boards to fans can easily watch the progression of matches with video of each target.
The driving force in securing the range was plans for WVU to host next year’s NCAA Rifle Championships. However, beyond that event, Hammond would like to eventually take the range to other venues in West Virginia and so other fans could see a rifle competition in person.
“It’s mobile in the sense that yes, it can be disassembled , but it’s quite an undertaking,” he said. “But yet, I think that would be a really neat thing in the future. There are some really neat possible venues throughout the state where we might be able to do that.”
Although WVU is set to host the championship match next year, there have been discussions at the legislature which may or may not have an impact on those plans. One bill being considered would allow for the carry of concealed firearms on campus, at least in venues smaller than 5,000 people. The NCAA has indicated schools where guns to be carried could be precluded from hosting championship events. According to Hammond nobody has had the discussion with him about that possibility.
“I don’t know how soon that would come into play. I hope that maybe it would be no team would win a bid for a championship,” said Hammond. “But if somethings already been determined, I hope that will be honored. It’s not something that’s been discussed.”
It may not have been discussed with Hammond, but university officials have expressed opposition to the idea to lawmakers. The loss of NCAA events was one of many potential pitfalls about which the university expressed worry.
It would not be the first time Hammond encountered such action from the NCAA. The organization will not allow title matches in states which continue to recognize the Confederate flag. Hammond said that rule kept title matches from the University of Mississippi, which has a growing rifle program. Until this year The Citadel had also been barred as a Championship host. However, South Carolina’s legislature eliminated the flag from official state recognition and this year The Citadel is hosting the NCAA Rifle Championships.